The Encyclopedia of Rhythm and Blues

Passion killings plane crashes overdoses
accidental and intended

Suicides bus wrecks women the inability to choose
between one woman and another

heroin, booze the inability to choose
between pleasure

and the Lord men prison the white man
the white man who owns

the record company the melismatic celebration
of disaster the gut-wrenching agony

of joy, the anger and hush of the naked soul alone
sighing and shouting intensely hyperbolic

declarations of erotic heroism—anywhere, baby,
anyhow skidding out of control and into the next-

to-the-last chorus and over the bridge and key
change, popping the balloon of a heart inflated

with humiliation and pain and replacing it
with guttural and shrieking glissandos

—I once was lost and now am found—
as if a singer were an angel commissioned

in the highest holy orders, as if a song had wings
extended into flight and feathers of shelter—

as if true love and its fraternal twin, the blues,
possessed equally the powers of devotion

and redemption, as if the one true heaven
were standing around the corner, laughing

drunk, and locked with lust and abandon
into the everloving arms of the mortal world.

Copyright © 2002 by Anthony Walton. This poem was first printed in The New Yorker, May 6, 2002. Used with the permission of the author.